We expected late April’s AUVSI XPONENTIAL in Orlando to be a good show. It proved to be a great one for our client Vantis. In retrospect, that’s really something, because for a while it looked like they might not even make it to the show.

Western North Dakota received one of its famous blizzards just as the show was starting, with heavy snow and ice affecting flights and ground transportation. Gov. Doug Burgum issued a state of emergency and enlisted uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS) to help restore power to residents and assist recovery efforts. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) came to the rescue, too, with needed approvals, waivers and monitoring.

The storm proved to be an all-eyes-watching proof of concept for the state’s UAS network, Vantis. The network was created to enable drones to operate beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) in times such as these, when crewed aircraft systems simply aren’t feasible. This real-life exercise underscored how valuable UAS can be in quickly getting to rural areas to assess utility infrastructure damage and helping prioritize resources needed for repairs.

Ready for Business

When the Vantis team got to Orlando and onto the convention floor, they were more jazzed than ever. They had just been put to the test – and prevailed. That positive energy and enthusiasm came through in every interaction – from current and potential customers to print reporters and TV crews.

A last-minute press release about the storm and the state’s UAS-driven response garnered media attention both at the show and at home. Trevor Woods, executive director of the Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS), served as an excellent spokesperson with such leading media outlets as Bloomberg and key partners such as the FAA.

Always Ready to Tell the Vantis Story

I worked onsite with a wide-range of reporters to get them the latest facts and schedule interviews with key individuals. I also learned to keep a laptop and mic handy to conduct Zoom interviews with TV stations basically anytime, anywhere.

People Want to Hear What We Have to Say

In one week, we garnered more than 20 articles reaching approximately 10.7 million people for an approximate value of almost $100,000. Pre- and post-show emails helped us reach key target audiences, while social media further expanded our audience. We had lots to share and no shortage of people eager to learn the latest.

Making an Impact

The attention-getting, new booth we designed brought together elements from both the Northern Plains UAS Test Site and Vantis, amplifying each of their efforts. While there were several booths with considerable wow factor, Vantis’s booth was among the bigger, more dynamic ones. Most were small, 10’x10’ spaces. Its brand continues to offer powerful visuals and messaging that help communicate the complex concepts of backhaul data networks and command and control radios. Booth supergraphics convey everything from delivery drones for large retail operations to remote-piloted vehicles filling advanced and urban air mobility (AAM/UAM) transportation needs. The bold creative – including a new video – suggests momentum that continues to accelerate.

Catching Our Breath and Readying for the Next Wave

Forgive us if we continue to bask in the glow of XPONENTIAL just a bit longer. After COVID halted the show in 2020 and dampened it in 2021, it was glorious to be back together again. Being surrounded by the latest innovations in autonomous vehicles for sky, land and water reminded us of the bigger picture and the role our client plays within it.

While this is a casual, jean-wearing kind of show, serious stuff goes on here. These technologies can be gamechangers. The Vantis network in particular enables BVLOS flights that support UAS flying into areas otherwise impossible to safely enter due to dangerous conditions or the lack of direct ground support – the conditions western North Dakota experienced just before the show.

The statewide Vantis UAS network can elevate both the private and public sectors, raising the bar for services from medical and agricultural to utilities and transportation. North Dakota made a bold move with its initial investment to make the state friendly to UAS business and innovation. More and more, it’s showing what a wise, strategic move that was. Vantis is lowering the barriers of entry and becoming the place to come to for commercializing scalable UAS operations. And it’s proving it’s up to the task.